World crude oil prices have hit a new record high after the head of
OPEC predicted that prices will rise more than 20 percent in the next
Prices rose above $140 a barrel in Thursday's
trading, but eased downward to settle at $139.53. Earlier, the
president of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Chakib
Khelil of Algeria, told an interviewer from France 24 television that
oil prices might reach $150 to $170 a barrel.
The OPEC chief
said the weak U.S. dollar and instability in the Middle East are
factors in oil's rapid price rise, but he blamed speculative trading
for most of the increase in prices. He did say he thinks a price of
200 dollars per barrel is out of reach.
Khelil, who is Algeria's mining and energy minister, said OPEC is ready to meet rising demand for crude oil in the future.
Some economists are taking a close look at recent reports from the U.S. and OPEC about future demand for oil.
Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted that
demand for fossil fuels including oil will persist, and it forecast oil
prices of up to 186 dollars a barrel by 2030 - with much of the oil
still coming from OPEC.
A recent report by the producers' group,
however, predicted a decline in demand for oil, due to a growing
reliance on biofuels and increasing production by countries that are
not OPEC members.
Some economists say the disagreement is
critical because it will influence how much OPEC invests in developing
new oil supplies. A report in London's Financial Times indicates
OPEC's predictions may already be having an impact. The newspaper says
Saudi Arabia and some other nations already have postponed plans to
increase production capacity.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Bloomberg.